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Geophysical Monograph Series



  • topography
  • culture
  • antiquity
  • Maori
  • tsunami
  • earthquakes

Index Terms

  • 7221 Seismology: Paleoseismology
  • 8175 Tectonophysics: Tectonics and landscape evolution
  • 8002 Structural Geology: Continental neotectonics
  • 7230 Seismology: Seismicity and tectonics



Influences of Active Tectonism on Human Development: A Review and Neolithic Example

E. R. Force and B. G. McFadgen

Two groups of researchers have independently studied the effects of active tectonism on human development. The first group focuses on tectonically influenced topography in providing varied food sources, security, natural hunting traps, and water resources through Paleolithic times. The second group suggests that active tectonism forced the pace of cultural change in antiquity, accelerating the development of cultural complexity in comparison to neighbors in tectonically quiescent areas. Economic, political, religious, and other modern evidence indicates that this may still be the case. Similarly, the effects of tectonically influenced topography can be traced into ancient agricultural societies and into some segments of the modern world. The effects of topography were particularly important in preurban stages of human development, and effects of the forced pace of cultural change were generally later and centered on towns. Potentially interesting overlaps in the Neolithic are addressed with a look at the Maori of New Zealand, who altered their way of life in response to earthquakes and consequent tsunami in the fifteenth century. The complexity of this example suggests that unidirectional processes should not be expected at the level of individual cultural entities. Many lines of evidence, however, show that tectonic activity should be considered along with other factors such as climate change in evaluating human activity and development.

Citation: Force, E. R., and B. G. McFadgen (2012), Influences of active tectonism on human development: A review and Neolithic example, in Climates, Landscapes, and Civilizations, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 198, edited by L. Giosan et al., 195–202, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2012GM001215.

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